Mangia, mangia, mushrooms!

Mention mushrooms and what comes to mind? If you’re a mushroom
lover, you picture mouthwatering, tender morsels blending easily
with hundreds of dishes. I am, admittedly, a big fan and have been
as long as I can remember (even as a teenager).
Mention mushrooms and what comes to mind? If you’re a mushroom lover, you picture mouthwatering, tender morsels blending easily with hundreds of dishes. I am, admittedly, a big fan and have been as long as I can remember (even as a teenager).

I love the dark and damp scent of mushrooms blooming on their beds of compost. The white globes first look like small fingers poking up through the soil, then gradually become rounder and more globe-like.

The “beds” of mushrooms are truly beautiful.

We are lucky in South County to benefit from very local and very fresh mushrooms, from the likes of San Martin Mushrooms, Del Fresh, Monterey Mushrooms and Royal Oaks. Look for these brands in your grocery store and you’ll know you’re getting mushrooms that have recently been picked only a few miles from the store.

Some interesting facts about mushrooms:

nWhite (agaricus) and brown (crimini) mushrooms are the most popular varieties. Both are smooth and creamy, making them perfect for stews, soups and sauces. They’re also versatile. They can be grilled, roasted, stir-fried or served raw, with equal aplomb.

nPortabella mushrooms (sometimes known as portobellos) are the largest and hardiest of cultivated mushrooms, up to six inches in diameter. But they’re not a separate breed of mushroom. They’re actually brown mushrooms that have been allowed to stay in the soil after their cousins have been harvested. With the additional room, they continue to grow and flatten out, developing a meatier flavor due to their longer growing time.

nOyster, shiitake and enoki mushrooms are now widely available at local grocery stores. Oysters have a delicate flavor and texture, so don’t brown them. Instead, gently heat in butter or olive oil. Shiitakes once grew wild on the shii tree of Japan. These mushrooms love to be sautéed, broiled and stir-fried. Enokis have tiny caps and long stems. They’re slightly crunchy and taste best raw, tossed into a salad or used as a sandwich topping. They’re also a beautiful garnish.

nFive medium-sized mushrooms equals one serving. This contains about 20 calories, and virtually no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They’re high in riboflavin; one serving has as much as a glass of milk. One serving contains as much fiber as a medium tomato or a serving of lettuce. They also contain B vitamins and copper.

Ready to try some? You can hardly find a recipe more simple than this one. These are great on an hors d’oeuvre platter. Make sure to provide some toothpicks. Or toss them into a salad for instant flavor.

Marinated Mushrooms

2 1/2 lbs. white mushrooms, small or medium

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

2 cups Italian dressing

Step 1 Blanche mushrooms for about 3 minutes by dunking them into boiling water. Immediately rinse in ice cold water to cool. Drain well..

Step 2 Add vinegar (use enough to cover mushrooms). Keep refrigerated overnight.

Step 3 In the morning, drain vinegar and add Italian dressing (I like to use Paul Newman’s). Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Quick and easy dinner: This dinner can be cooked in less than 30 minutes. It’s a crowd pleaser and, if you want, you can split up the duties, with one person grilling the steaks while the other prepares the sauce.

Steak with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

1 T. butter

1/3 cup minced shallot or onion

8 oz. fresh white mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup beef broth

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves

4 boneless sirloin steaks, grilled (8 oz. each)

Step 1 In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter.

Step 2 Add shallot; cook and stir until soft, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook and stir until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in beef broth, wine and thyme. Turn heat to high; cook, stirring to blend flavors, about 4 minutes.

Step 3 Grill steaks on barbeque or under the broiler.

Step 4 Spoon sauce over steaks and serve. (Mashed potatoes is the obvious and delicious side dish. Perhaps some sautéed zucchini on the side or some canned corn heated in the microwave if you’re in a hurry.)

Fabulous lunch: Having someone special over for lunch? Make these sandwiches. I promise, they look and taste wonderful.

Grilled Portabella Sandwich

6 oz. portabella mushrooms

2 T. olive oil

1 small loaf (8 oz.) Italian or other crusty bread

3 T. pesto

1 cup spinach, arugula or lettuce leaves

4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in thin slices

1 jar (7 oz.) roasted red peppers

Step 1 Preheat outdoor grill or broiler until hot. Trim portabella stems if attached; cut mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices. Brush both sides with oil.

Step 2 Place on a rack on a grill or broiler pan 4 inches from heat; grill or broil until mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes, turning once.

Step 3 Cut bread horizontally in half. Spread bottom half with pesto. Layer with spinach, mozzarella, peppers and mushrooms. Cover with top of bread. Cut crosswise in half to serve.

If you’d like to receive more mushroom recipes or information, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Mushroom Council, 11875 Dublin Blvd., Suite 262, Dublin, CA 94568 or go to their Web site at www.mushroom-

council.com.

Happy cooking!

Notes

• Mushrooms contain the essential minerals selenium, potassium and copper. Studies have shown that men who eat plenty of selenium-rich foods like mushrooms may lower their risk of prostate cancer.

• Mushrooms are always in season since they are grown in very dark greenhouses. Look for smooth, firm caps, free from major blemishes. Surfaces should be dry and not slick.

• Store mushrooms in a paper bag. If packaged, remove plastic wrap and then wrap with a paper towel.

Tip: Mushrooms do not need to be washed with a lot of water. Simply wipe with a soft cloth or rinse quickly and trim only if the stem is dry.

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